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Articles 2

Do you know when you need to use the in common phrases and place names?

Look at these examples to see when the is and isn't used.

I'm going to bed.
I walk to work.
My children are going to start school.
I visited the school yesterday.
Mount Everest is in the Himalayas.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Articles 2: Grammar test 1

Grammar explanation

Here are some ways we use articles in common phrases and place names.

Common phrases

We don't usually use an article in expressions with bed, work and home.

go to bed / be in bed
go to work / be at work / start work / finish work
go home / be at home / get home / stay at home

We also don't normally use an article in expressions with school, university, prison and hospital.

start school / go to school / be at school
go to university / be at university
be sent to prison / go to prison / be in prison
go to hospital / be in hospital

But we usually use the if someone is just visiting the place, and not there as a student/prisoner/patient, etc.

My son has started school now. I went to the school to meet his teacher.
I went to the prison a lot when I was a social worker.
I'm at the hospital. My sister has just had a baby.

Place names

We don't normally use an article for continents, most countries, cities, towns, lakes, mountains or universities. So, we say:

Africa, Asia, Europe
India, Ghana, Peru, Denmark
Addis Ababa, Hanoi, New York, Moscow
Lake Victoria, Lake Superior, Lake Tanganyika
Mount Everest, Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Elbrus
Cardiff University, Harvard University, Manchester University

Some countries are different. Country names with United have the. There are other countries which are exceptions too. So, we say:

the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States of America
the Bahamas, the Gambia

Seas and oceans, mountain ranges and rivers have the:

the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Mediterranean
the Andes, the Himalayas, the Alps
the Nile, the Amazon, the Yangtze

Universities with of in the title also have the:

the University of Cape Town, the University of Delhi, the University of Tokyo

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Articles 2: Grammar test 2

Language level

Beginner: A1
Pre-intermediate: A2

Comments

Hi Teacher
Could you please explain to me which are the correct form in questions 4 and 5 in section Article 2? In the explanation, the "THE" get to used for Seas and oceans,

Below you find the question.
4.
the Nile is the longest river in Africa. It flows north from the Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean Sea.

Hi LUIZ ANTONIO,

The correct forms are as follows:

The Nile is the longest river in - Africa. It flows north from - Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean Sea.

We use 'the' for seas and oceans ('the Mediterranean Sea') and for rivers ('The Nile'), but we use no article for the names of continents ('- Africa') and lakes ('- Lake Victoria').

You can see the correct answers to any exercise once you have entered your answers and clicked 'Finish'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,
in the first grammar test you should put in fourth example "Nile" without the
but in grammar explanation, it is mentioned that "the" is used with oceans, rivers and mountains.
Question: is it an error from british council team or is there another explanation to that.
thank you.

Hi walimM,

Actually, in that question you should put in The Nile. I've just checked the exercise, and it marks The as correct for me. Did it give you an error?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi team
I have two question.
1-It's very hot today and Ben has turned on __ fan to get some fresh air.(right answer is the fan but I have been thinking no article. Why we use '' the''?
2-Ted is listening to __ news on __radio. He looks worried.(Blanks are' '' the' '.Are they a rule?)

Hi Yigitcan,

In your first example, we use 'the' because the meaning is that there is one fan available to cool him down. We say 'the' in similar situations even if there are multiple items. For example, we say 'turn on the light' in a room even if there are several lights to choose from. The assumption is that we mean the main light if there is nothing in the context to make another meaning clear.

In your second example, we always say 'the news'. You can say 'a news programme' but always 'the news'. It is a singular noun, even though it ends with an 's'.

We use 'the' with several channels of communication: 'on the radio', 'on the phone', 'on the Internet'. This is not a consistent rule, however, as we usually say 'on television', 'in a telegram', 'in a text', amongst others. Articles are governed by both rules and convention, so with forms like these there is often an arbitrary component which means they must simply be memorised.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,
Could you explain to me the different between two sentences:
I go to school
I go to the school
Thank you.
ND

Hello Nhi Do,

This is explained in the Common phrases section on this page. If you are someone who regularly goes to school -- for example, a student who spends their day at school -- then you would typically say 'to school'. In general, if a person says 'I go to school', it means they are a student.

If you don't regularly spend your day at school, then 'to the school' would typically be the correct form to use. For example, if you are a parent of a student and are going to speak with your child's teacher at the school, you would typically say 'I'm going to the school'.

Does that make sense?

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello
When I want to pronounce a country which starts with "United". How do I pronounce "the"? Do I pronounce it as a "da" or as a "di"? (I don't know how to write it in phonetic language)

Hello AlanFab,

The word 'united' has a consonant sound at the beginning: /juːˈnaɪ.tɪd/.

The pronunication of 'the' before this is generally weak /ðə/ unless for some contextual reason you wish to emphasise it.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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